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San Diego Library Encourages Family Reading With Winter Challenge

Four-year-old Patrick Jang looks down at a picture book that his mother is holding while he sits among stacks with his brother in the children's section at the San Diego Central Library, Dec. 30, 2019.
Tarryn Mento
Four-year-old Patrick Jang looks down at a picture book that his mother is holding while he sits among stacks with his brother in the children's section at the San Diego Central Library, Dec. 30, 2019.

One weekday afternoon, kids were chattering, shuffling blocks and occasionally crying in the children's section at the downtown library. But in one corner three young children sat quietly as their dad read out loud. Their father, James Jang, was telling them the tale of Bruce Wayne from a Batman picture book.

The city of San Diego Public Library wants to see more families read together next month for its first Winter Reading Challenge. Organizers on Monday announced the January program that encourages San Diegans of all ages to read a certain amount for the chance to win small rewards. It’s also part of a national competition that awards top-performing locations with thousands of dollars in prizes.

San Diego Library Encourages Family Reading With Winter Challenge
Listen to this story by Tarryn Mento.

The Jang family stopped by the downtown library location on a cloudy day while visiting from the Portland area. Mother Abigail Jang said she relies on libraries during vacation or amid frequent moves, for her husband’s job, because they often have incentive programs that keep her kids reading.

Video: San Diego Libraries Launch Winter Reading Challenge

“A mom nagging doesn’t really help,” said Jang, whose kids are 5, 4 and 2 years old.

She said a reward, even as small as a sticker, can keep her children motivated.

“It helps us as a team. We’re like a team to kind of achieve a goal together,” Jang said.

San Diego Winter Reading Challenge participants who read at least five books or for a total of five hours are eligible for prizes that include Subway meal tickets and passes to the Maritime Museum of San Diego.

Youth and Engagement Coordinator Emily Derry said the winter reading effort aims to inspire readers, young and old because a child’s positive reading habits aren’t only dependent on picking up a book for themselves — they need to witness others doing it too.

“Research shows that children and teens who see the adults in their lives reading are more likely to become lifelong readers themselves,” Derry said.

She said she wants to also remind infrequent adult readers to enjoy the activity on their own.

San Diego library officials launched the winter initiative after high demand from participants in its long-running summer reading program. About 23,000 people signed up this past summer.

The January reading challenge is part of a bigger contest. Hundreds of libraries and schools in the U.S. are competing for $50,000 in books and author visits from a publishing company.

The first national winter reading incentive was sponsored by entrepreneur and professional basketball team owner Mark Cuban. He became involved after he invested in a contestant, pitching a web application for reading programs on the TV program Shark Tank.

So far, 138 people in San Diego have pre-registered for the winter reading challenge that begins Jan. 1.

Corrected:
Editor's note: The photo caption has been updated to correct the name of the young boy in the foreground. His name is Patrick. Quentin is his younger brother in the background. This has been corrected.